Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Be Generous With Your Prayers

Ephesians 6:18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.

Hopefully, if you’ve been reading these devotions, you are becoming aware of the necessity and power of prayer in our lives and how that power is not limited to only those who are close to us. We pray to an infinite God with an infinite reach and when we join our prayers with those of Christians around the world God answers in places and within people we will not see or know until we are home in heaven. We know and are thankful that the effectiveness of our prayers do not lie in our ability to pray but in the power of the One we pray too, but we must be willing to offer up those prayers.

In Ephesians, chapter six, Paul tells us to put on the armor of God so we can be ready for the spiritual battle we all face in a world full of hate, temptation and brokenness. He closes this passage with a plea for us to pray at all times for all the saints (believers in Christ). Paul understood full well that none of us can make it through this world without prayer and that the most helpful attitude we can have is to be generous with our prayers.

My five year old daughter Katie went through a time where she wanted to give away everything, all of her toys and clothes. At first, I was happy to see such a generous spirit but when I asked her why she was doing it she said: “I know if I give away what I have you will buy me something new!” I had to explain to her the limits of her father’s wallet! However, for our Father in Heaven, this is exactly true. He blesses us with great things so we can use them wisely to help others. If we are good stewards and give according to His will then He will ensure our needs are met.

That is why it strikes me as odd that the one blessed gift we never have to worry about running out of
is the one we sometimes are so stingy with - Prayer. We often treat prayer as if it is something that is limited, something we have to save for. “I’d pray for this small need but what if I have a bigger need later on?”

What is worse is when we treat our prayer for others the same way. I once had a man tell me that his neighbor had asked him to pray for his children who were not living in God’s will. The man refused, saying he would not pray for them until they were living in God's will. I asked him, how could they live in God’s will without someone praying for them? The truth is we all need prayer, that is why Paul encourages us here to be generous in our prayers for others. Not just for him, but for all the saints.

Maybe you have a list of people you pray for regularly. It might have people from you church, your children, maybe your neighbors - depending on how well you know them and, let’s be honest, whether or not you like them. It is wonderful to have a list to remind you of those you know are in need of prayer, but don’t be afraid to go beyond your list. Pray for our leaders, whether you voted for them or not, pray for those who annoy you, pray for the girl who handed you lunch out the drive-thru window, the guy who took your favorite parking spot. When you are trying to figure out who needs prayer, it may be better to ask who doesn’t need prayer!

This week, try to think beyond your prayer list. Who are the people you encounter in your life that you can take a moment to pray for? Who are the “forgotten saints” in your life that you can spend more time praying for? This week, be generous in your prayers.

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

You Can't Always Get What You Want...

Luke 18:1-8
1 He then told them a parable on the need for them to pray always and not become discouraged: 2 “There was a judge in a certain town who didn’t fear God or respect man. 3 And a widow in that town kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’4 “For a while he was unwilling, but later he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps pestering me, I will give her justice, so she doesn’t wear me out by her persistent coming.’”6 Then the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 Will not God grant justice to His elect who cry out to Him day and night?Will He delay to help them? 8 I tell you that He will swiftly grant them justice. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find that faith on earth?”

Prayer is a blessed gift, it is the way we make it through the good times and the bad times in our life. As we’ve talked about before, prayer is more than a wish list. It is not the same as your shopping cart on Amazon, it is a conversation with the all mighty, sovereign, God of the universe. It is a time where we get to know Him better and where He helps us to grow to be more like His Son.

Here, Jesus is telling a parable, or using a story to illustrate a deeper truth. In this parable we have two characters; a judge and a widow. Normally you would expect the judge to represent God in this story since that was literally the job description given for a judge in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, however this was not a good judge. He did not respect man or God. Instead he serves as a contrast to God, a reminder of how good our God is, and how He hears our petitions.

The main point here is not the character of the uncaring judge it is the character of the widow, it is her persistence. In this story she had nowhere else to turn, no other resort, her only choice was to cry out to this uncaring judge. She knew he would not respond quickly, she knew she had no guarantee of being heard, and yet she did not give up, she did not lose hope. She continued to cry out believing her persistence would be rewarded.

Thankfully our hope does not rest in an uncaring judge but in our loving God.  Still, we must be persistent in our prayers. I was once asked by a lady if her constant prayers showed a lack of faith. She said “If I pray once and leave it then that shows I have a true faith but if I keep praying then it shows I don't trust God to answer my first prayer.” I led her to this parable and explained to her that it is by asking repeatedly and hopefully that we show we have true faith. That we are willing to not give up on a need.  Of course her response was “Why? Why must I pray persistently, why won't God just give me what I want now?”

Maybe He wants us to think through what we are asking first, maybe we are asking for something that He knows will not be good for us or will be better for us at a later time. Maybe He knows that we need to be prepared for whatever we are asking by spending more time with Him first.

You see even though God does want us to come to Him with our needs, and yes He is gracious and generous to supply them, our needs are not the mot important part of prayer. Prayer is first and foremost about God changing us rather than getting God to change His mind. Prayer is where we learn who God truly is and how He created us to be.  It is the time spent with Him that we truly need.

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church